The effects of a slow loading website is that firstly, visitors don’t like waiting for your site to load. If your page doesn’t load within a few seconds they often will leave the site, losing you a potential visitor, or customer if you run an online store. This then has a flow on effect with your search engine optimisation, as visitors leaving the site prematurely will increase your bounce rate, sending a message to Google that there is no value to be found on your site, which may push your website further down the rankings behind sites with more value to offer.
A slow loading website can also cause issues with Google reading the site and ranking or listing it at all.
But the other problem with a slow loading website is it obviously takes much longer to update content, and if you’re paying someone to update the content for you this can end up costing you more in the time required to do the changes.
The good news though is that your loading speed can usually be fixed quite easily, and it is something you can do yourself without requiring an expert.
These issues can usually be avoided or fixed very easily, and here is how…
Run a Speed Test on your site
The first thing you want to do is head over to GTMetrix.com and enter your website URL and see how long it takes for your website to load. By the way, for those non-techies, URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator’, which is just a fancy name for your website address.
So once you enter your URL into GT Metrix give it a few moments as it scans your website and it will produce your loading speed, as well as an analyse of your site which outlines the areas which are loading slowly.
Ideally you want your website to load within 4 seconds or less if possible. If your website is over 8 seconds loading time then you need to seriously look at fine-tuning this.
Now the analysis will usually have the worst results at the top, making it easy for you to spot the technical issues, but there are also some non-technical issues which should be checked first before doing the harder stuff.
Too many Plugins…
Plugins are great for functionality, but each time you add another one it can bloat the site and put extra stress on the database, causing the site to load slower.
You may also find some plugins could conflict with other ones, especially if they are outdated.
Remove any plugins you don’t require, and check if any require updating.
Outdated Plugins or Themes
WordPress is basically an operating system, just like your mobile phone, computer or car. From time to time you’ll find for security and optimization purposes, the themes, plugins and even WordPress themselves require updating. Not updating them can slow your website down, lose functionality or even make the website open to malware or hacking attacks.
It is recommended that you regularly check that these are kept up to date. If you’re doing this yourself make sure you always do a backup of the website first.
One of the simplest problems that can be fixed easily is caused by loading images way too large for your site. The best way to check your image size is to go to your Media Library and click on one of the images. On the right of the screen it will show the dimensions of the image. Keeping in mind website images only need to be as wide as a standard monitor, so if your images are over 2400 pixels wide or tall they are way too large. Most image gallery images only need to be 1200 pixels wide. By resizing them before uploading them ensures they load faster.
You can also install a plugin such as SmushIt to optimize the image resolution so they load even quicker.
Optimize the Database
Your database is like a filing system or your computer desktop. If you don’t occasionally re-order or file things everything gets cluttered and you need to work harder to find things. Your WordPress site is much the same, and will leave old files behind such as revisions, and other database ‘clutter’ you no longer need. Plugins such as Updraft Optimize will show you what needs to be removed, and then lets you choose to remove them in one simple click. You’ll usually see a noticeable difference in loading time instantly.
A simple way to speed up website loading time is to install a plugin such as WP cache which allows you to set your website cache to store the latest version of the site rather than have to load entirely for repeat visitors to your website. By adding this plugin, or one of the similar ones available will dramatically reduce your loading time as images don’t need to load fresh each time.
Check your Hosting
If you have done everything else and your site still loads slow it could be a case of your hosting speed. Check your hosting plan and find out a few things such as how much space you have, if it is shared hosting and where your server is located. If you have a shared hosting plan you may be sharing server space with another site or multiple sites which use a lot of resources and slow the entire server down. You may need to look at a dedicated hosting plan which will eliminate this issues. If you are hosting your site in a foreign country to your target audience you may want to look at a provider more centrally located to them. Usually a call or Livechat with your hosting provider can provide information on these issues.
Your website is basically an operating system and it requires a database to run it on. Your Database requires PHP code, and sometimes your hosting may not be updated to a more recent version of the PHP, which can slow your database and even cause issues with your plugins. The easiest way to see what version you are running is to log into your hosting Cpanel and look for the PHP version updater. If you are running on anything below PHP 5.6 it is recommended you backup your site and then upgrade to 5.6 or version 7 (if your site is recent). This will usually speed up your site and also make it more secure.
Give these simple solutions a go and then run the gtmetrix.com test again and hopefully you should be running much faster!